After Anderson Cooper graduated from Yale University, he had difficulty finding a job in broadcast journalism. So he gathered some video equipment and shuttled off to war zones – Burma, Bosnia and Somalia, among other places, and packaged his own news.
Eventually, he began selling his stories. Then ABC News hired him.
Now, Cooper, who visited Temple University yesterday to receive the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award, reports for 60 Minutes, he hosts a daily talk show on CBS and he anchors a show on CNN. He works around 14 to 16 hours per day.
“I don’t do much else,” he said, though he added that the long days don’t bother him. “It doesn’t feel like work to me.”
His style of journalism has generated a mass following, largely because he reports on ideas and events in a factual manner and then adds his own critical eye. He’s received criticism for his brand of journalism, like the time he saved the life of a child who had been pelted by bricks after a devastating earthquake in Haiti.
“This kid is 10-years old and he has a severe head wound,” Cooper recalled, explaining how he scooped up the child and carried him to safety. “Some people attacked me for being too involved. But this was not altering the event. It was helping a kid.”
It’s important not to alter a situation, he said, or to even create a stir because the cameras are rolling. When people start acting for the camera, he shuts it down, as what he strives for is authenticity. Which is why he lets the news impact him on a personal level.
“I don’t think you should go home and brush it (the job) off,” he said. “Seeing everything and thinking about it makes your reporting all the more real.”
Even after 20 years in journalism, after witnessing devastation after devastation, he tries not to be hardened by what he sees and experiences.
“You can get lost in the horror and hate,” he admitted. “But then you miss the kindness and compassion.”
Here are a few other things he said that stood out to me:
• “It’s an extraordinary feeling to run to something that everyone else is running away from,” he said.
• “Accuracy in reporting is more important than ever before,” Cooper said.
• His mother told him to follow his bliss. So he did. He took a chance by travelling overseas to war zones to report.
• He got his first job by being there, and by being aggressive.
• In order to be a success, you need to outwork everyone else, Cooper said.
“That’s why I don’t take vacation now,” he said. “Because I know there are a lot of people waiting to take my job.”
• He came out as being gay when he was in high school, and he said that he has long been open about his sexuality. He just always thought it was a personal issue, one that didn’t need to be discussed on the global stage of his television shows.
“When you’re reporting,” he said, “you don’t want to be the story.”
Plus, in many of the places he reported, being gay was not socially acceptable.
Having his personal life splashed around the world could have endangered his life.